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Stories from the Classroom

Memory Zoo

The Memory Zoo is a fun game that we play to foster photographic memory. A zoo is a place full of animals, but a Memory Zoo is a mat full of objects to memorize at one quick glance. The term “zoo” implies a fun time, and that’s exactly what we have! But, one day in the classroom, nine-year-old Maria was getting a little frustrated with the game.

We had presented eight objects and she could only remember five. Her little six-year-old sister, meanwhile, was up to 18 items. (She had the lesson before.) The air of competition and hurt feelings had blocked the flow.

“Let’s do another activity,” her mother suggested.


So we got onto our magic carpets and settled back into a mental imaging journey. Away we went to distant lands where she could explore castles and become a princess of her very own country.

When we came back to the classroom, I had Maria image that princess in the classroom. I described the princess as being excited -- so much so that she was skipping around the classroom. She was even hopping up and down for joy. Why? On the floor was a mat jam-packed full of little objects and she had

remembered them all!

I had the princess turn around and show Maria her face.

“Do you see who it is?” her mother asked.

“That’s me!” Her whole face shone with a wide smile.

“Okay, now keep your eyes closed,” I instructed. “I have a surprise.”

As she smiled and waited, I dumped out my entire object bag out onto the floor. There were over 100 objects. I scattered them so that although close together, every item could be plainly seen.

“Okay, now open your eyes, count to three and close them again.” She opened her eyes, scanned the floor and closed them. “Table, can, peach, jump rope, tie, rabbit, yo-yo, parrot, hat, mop...” she began to trail off.

Then she said slowly, “Apple, pencil, paper clip.” Another pause. “House.” “Panda bear, leaf, flower.” “Zebra, cup.” “Rainbow.”

After a long pause she said, “Car?”


Then she shook her head and said, “That’s all I can remember.”


“Maria! You remembered 21 objects!”


She opened her eyes in half-disbelief. “I did? I really did?”


She leapt up and raised her arms. “I did it! I did it!” she cried.

“So, why aren’t you skipping and hopping, Princess Maria?” her mother teased.


They shared a good laugh and a hug.

Mini Michelangelo

Six-year-old Kenny was a terrifically talented artist. He would race through his preschool writing and math workbooks so that he could spend hours and hours at the art table to create a single picture. What he would finally produce was no less than a masterpiece. His attention to detail brought in aspects of shading, perspective and form that even adult artists struggle with. Kenny spent a long time sketching faces, swords, clothing, daggers, roads, castles, coat of arm symbols, landscapes -- all the while telling an elaborate story with one picture.

When Kenny began Wink exercises, he was excited. Here was an aspect of imagery that he had not yet experienced, and he loved it.  A few months into the curriculum, he surprised us with descriptions of what he saw in his mind, and how he could use this newfound ability.

He used his 3-D photographic memory for shading. He would mentally picture his subject (a knight or a dragon) and then picture the sun. He would let the light shine on his subjects to see where the shadows would fall. He would then open his eyes and draw the shading.

He used his 3-D photographic memory for movement. He would picture how a dragon would move, how it would rear up on its hind legs and breathe fire. Then he would “freeze frame” and spend quite a few concentrated minutes transferring the image to paper.

He used his 3-D photographic memory to add texture and depth. In one picture, Kenny had the dragon’s footprints leading up to his cave. They were dark and deep and very pronounced in one area, and then almost disappeared before actually going in to the cave. (When his teachers asked him about it, Kenny told them that the earth where the footprints were the most pronounced was where the soil was moist.)

He used his 3-D photographic memory to add more detail.


He said, “When you look around, you don’t see a blank white page -- every bit of the paper is used up!”  So when he had a blank white spot, he would go back to his “mental chalkboard” and look to see what was there in the void.


As a result, Kenny’s drawings became much more detailed.

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